That look when Mom says no more screen time.

“Three, it’s a magic number.” As in, the age your kids should be before you let them have some screen time?

When I was pregnant with my daughter Genevieve, I read articles that said no screen time for kids 2 and under. Well, I learned pretty quickly that a five-hour road trip with no tablet was painful for everyone. So now we have a few cartoons pre-loaded on our iPad, just in case. 

Genevieve (not yet 2 at the time) soon fell in love with Curious George, which she called “Ooo ah ah.” Her newfound love for Ooo Ah Ah eventually led me to buying the Curious George movie, partly because I knew it had a fun soundtrack by Jack Johnson. One of my favorite songs from the album is “The 3 R’s.” It’s about the phrase Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. 

“If you’re going to the market to buy some juice / You’ve got to bring your own bags and learn to reduce your waste / Gotta learn to reduce

And if your brother or your sister’s got some cool clothes / You could try them on before you buy some more of those / Reuse / We gotta learn to reuse”

Potato chips also make for a happy traveler

But the song actually has an important message, beyond simply encouraging kids to do the “3 R’s.” It also hints at the fact that the three words are in a certain order on purpose; it is a hierarchy. 

“And if the first two R’s don’t work out / And you’ve got to make some trash / Don’t throw it out / Recycle.” 

We often jump right to the last R: recycling. I do it too. It feels good to recycle! And it’s pretty easy to do. But what we really need to be doing is focusing on the first two Rs. Can we avoid using a disposable product in the first place? Can we reuse something first? While it feels good, knowing it’s not going to the landfill, it actually takes a lot of energy to recycle all that stuff.

Plus, recycling is a business, and if there’s not a market for the material, it’s possible it could eventually end up in the landfill anyway. China has recently said they will no longer take much of the recycling that the US and other countries have been previously sending their way for processing. I talked with Steven Gimpell with Waste Management Northwest who said the material that’s recycled in the Wenatchee Valley currently goes to Spokane for sorting and then moves on to domestic markets. But that could easily change if there’s no longer a demand for those materials. 

A few of my favorite reusable products

So before we pat ourselves on the back for recycling, maybe we should think about how to take a couple of steps back, and look at all of our options. It can be a hard thing to do when you’ve got enough on your hands with littles, I know. As passionate as I am about sustainability, I never judge where other people are at; it’s a journey for all of us. Speaking of judgement, ditto for parents who resort to some screen time for peace and quiet. I get it now.

***Stay tuned for a series of three posts about the 3 Rs and how they can be put into action for families in North Central Washington. Have questions or comments about what blogs you’d like to read relating to sustainability and eco-parenting? Email me at sustainablewenatchee@gmail.com. 

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